Baseball Triple Crown 2012: Miguel Cabrera Milestone Shouldn't Guarantee MVP
By winning the Triple Crown, Miguel Cabrera pulled off an incredible feat that hadn't been accomplished since 1967.
But that doesn't mean the Detroit Tigers slugger should automatically be given the MVP award.
I don't want to make this a purely Cabrera versus Mike Trout argument. Though we will get into that, there are two factors to consider first: Historical precedent, and how impressive his numbers actually are in the modern game.
Historically, six Triple Crown winners have been named as MVP. But three players haven't won the award in Triple Crown seasons:
- Ted Williams, 1947
- Ted Williams, 1942
- Lou Gehrig, 1934
- Chuck Klein, 1933
Poor Ted Williams.
I have no idea how he lost the MVP to Joe Gordon in 1942 or Joe DiMaggio in 1947—though Teddy Ballgame wasn't the most popular of players in his time, and the New York Yankees made the World Series in each season—as his numbers were far better across the board than either player. He even led baseball in runs and walks in each season.
In 1934, Mickey Cochrane won the MVP despite numbers far inferior to Gehrig's. But again, the Detroit Tigers went to the World Series. And in 1933, Chuck Klein lost to pitcher Carl Hubbell, who finished 23-12 with a 1.66 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 156 strikeouts, 10 shutouts and 22 complete games in 308.2 innings.
Hard to argue with that one.
Rogers Hornsby won in 1922, but there wasn't an MVP named in the National League that year. Four players who achieved the milestone (Ty Cobb in 1909, Nap Lajoie in 1901, Tip O'Neill in 1887 and Paul Hines in 1878) all predated the MVP award.
The argument here is simple: The Triple Crown has never automatically earned a player the MVP. It should be noted, however, that Williams and Gehrig were likely robbed because their teams didn't make the World Series, while Cabrera's team is playing postseason baseball this year.
But despite winning the Triple Crown, are Cabrera's numbers really all that impressive in the modern game?
To win the American League Triple Crown this season, a player had to hit (at the minimum) .327 with 44 home runs and 129 RBI (Cabrera hit .330 with 44 home runs and 139 RBI).
Albert Pujols surpassed those numbers in 2006 (.331, 49, 137) and 2009 (.327, 47, 135), though of course he did it in the National League. Barry Bonds did it in 2001 (.328, 73, 137), though I have my reservations as to how legitimate those numbers are.
So, yes, combining all three of those marks was pretty darn impressive for Cabrera, though not unprecedented. Still, if there wasn't another incredibly compelling case to be made for a different player winning the MVP, Cabrera would unquestionably win the award.
Trout hit .326 with 30 home runs and 89 RBI. He led all of baseball in runs scored (129), stolen bases (49) and WAR (10.7), tied for 20th all-time for position players.
Oh, and he's done all of this in 139 games (22 less than Cabrera, for what it's worth) in his rookie season, at the age of 20. (He's only 20!)
And he's going to win a Gold Glove as well.
He's accomplished a few bits of history himself. Had he not been caught stealing on Wednesday night, he would have made some history (via ESPN Stats and Info):
Mike Trout needs one steal to become 3rd player with 30+ HR and 50+ SB in season (Barry Bonds in 1990, Eric Davis in 1987).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 3, 2012
And then there's this, from Buster Olney of ESPN:
ELIAS: Mike Trout is the first player in MLB history with at least 45 steals, 30 HR and 125 runs scored in a single season.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) October 1, 2012
When you combine his excellent numbers at the dish and on the basepaths, his huge defensive contributions and the fact that he's doing this despite being just 20 years old, I have to give the MVP to Trout.
It just so happens to be my personal opinion. I understand the arguments for Cabrera—he was epic this year—and if he wins the MVP, I won't be angry.
But I hope voters don't automatically give him the award due to him winning the Triple Crown. It shouldn't be that black and white.
Hit me up on Twitter—my tweets are on point like Geno Smith.
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